Pupils may have to get a grade 4 or above in GCSE maths and English to be eligible for the loanAkshay Chauhan/Unsplash

Students with low GCSE and A Level Grades may be prevented from receiving a student loan, according to government proposals.

As part of its response to the Augar review of higher education funding from 2019, the Department of Education (DfE) will consider introducing minimum grade requirements for students to get maintenance loans and tuition fees.

Pupils may have to get a grade 4 or above in GCSE English and maths, or two E’s or above at A Level or equivalent, in order to be eligible for the loan.

A spokesperson for the DfE said: “Higher education is an investment and we need to ensure that graduates are being rewarded for the money, time and effort they put into their studies with an educational experience and jobs that match their skills and help contribute to the economy.”

However, this has faced criticism from university leaders and experts, who argue that if enacted, the proposal would have a negative impact on students from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with disabilities.

Chief executive of Universities UK, Alistair Jarvis CBE said that though they are “yet to see the detail” of the government’s proposals, they “would strongly oppose measures which turn the clock back on progress made by universities to get more people from disadvantaged backgrounds into higher education and better jobs.”

He went on to add that “Government should expand opportunity, not constrain it. Placing a cap on aspiration by reducing the number of places for people to study at university is bad for individuals, the economy and society.


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“Government should ensure that anyone with the potential to succeed at university has opportunity to do so.”

Some have defended the proposal, with right-wing commentator and Durham University student Sophie Corcoran calling the ban “entirely reasonable” in a tweet. She went on to say, “if you can’t pass basic English and maths, then uni is not for you.”

The number of disadvantaged students applying to higher education has increased in recent years, with 28% students from the most disadvantaged areas applying for places this autumn, compared to 18% in 2013.

The proposal also calls for freezing tuition fees for the next two years, and introducing limits on student numbers. At the end of March last year the value of outstanding loans stood at £161bn and is forecast to rise to about £500bn by 2043, the DfE said.